EU DELEGATION LEFT TEHRAN SURPRISED BY THE REVIVED ANTI-AMERICAN MOOD
TEHRAN 26 Sept. (IPS) In the second act of the international diplomatic ballet that is now being played in the Iranian capital, a team of the European Union arrived in Tehran late Tuesday night on the heels of Mr. Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister’s departure for Israel, to "check" the possibilities of enrolling Iran in an international fight against terrorism.
The delegation, which met Wednesday with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, was led by Mr. Louis Michel, the Belgian Foreign Minister, his Spanish counterpart, Josep Pique, EU’s Senior Minister for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and External Relations’ High Commissar Chris Patten.
This was the second meeting between the EU and the Iranian Foreign Minister in this month, the first one taking place earlier in Brussels, where Mr. Kharrazi paid his first official visit to the 15-members European Organisation that offered Iran a Trade and Co-operation pact to be signed latter.
On that meeting, the EU had raised the question of dreadful human rights conditions in Iran, fogging and executing people in public places, the crackdown on the independent press and jailing of reformist journalists as well as members of nationalist-Islamist groups, all ordered by the regime’s boss, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
Coming from Pakistan, the EU mission arrived in Tehran, the second leg of a five-nation tour that comprises also Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, to try to help build support for combating terrorism following the suicide attacks on the United States two weeks ago.
But the atmosphere had dramatically changed in the Iranian Capital, where internal feud had taken over international considerations, with the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’I telling the nation that the US that wants to fight terrorism has the world’s "most dangerous terrorists next to itself", a reference to Israel.
EU sources told Iran Press Service that contrary of its expectation, the delegation found a "quite difficult situation" when it met with Iranian officials.
He did not elaborated.
External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said the EU team wanted to find out how far Iran was prepared to work with the 15-nation bloc in fighting terrorism.
The answer did come from Mr. Khameneh’i, saying America "lacked the competence to led an international coalition against terrorism".
"The immediate target is Mr. bin Laden and (his) al Qa’eda group -- those who appear to have been directly responsible for the atrocities in the United States -- but beyond that the battle has to be carried forward in international fora and through international cooperation", he told reporters aboard the plane carrying the EU delegation from Pakistan.
Michel, in his talks with his Iranian counterpart, termed the Islamic Republic of Iran as "an important and influential country in the region and in the entire world of Islam" and said that the EU was "determined" to promote ties with Iran, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported from the meeting.
Belgium holds the current presidency of the EU, with Spain to follow on January 2002.
"Praising Tehran's stances regarding the recent terrorist operations in the U.S., he said due to the strategic and key role being played by Iran in the region its stances on latest regional developments enjoy prime importance as far as European states are concerned", the agency added.
For his part, Mr. Solana reiterated that the ongoing international coalition for struggle against terrorism is neither against Islam nor against any Islamic state. "The move is against all kinds of violence", Solana explained, calling for an "all-out efforts by all world countries to uproot terrorism".
Terming the current talks between Iran and the EU states as a positive move toward establishment of an appropriate and mutual understanding between the two sides, he called for continuation of cooperation between the two sides.
Repeating what President Khatami had told the British Minister, Mr. Kharrazi told his European guests that Tehran condemned the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington "in spite of continuation of the U.S. hostile attitude towards the Iranian nation".
Expressing his concern over occurrence of a human tragedy in the neighboring Afghanistan, Kharrazi stressed that any kind of military operation in Afghanistan which would lead to massacre of a large number of civilians, will be faced with opposition of the public opinion throughout the world of Islam.
Kharrazi also stressed the Iranian stated position that any operation aimed at uprooting terrorism in the world should be within the framework of the United Nations principles and led by the world body, not the United States.
"The EU would deliver the message that it was fine for Iran to condemn the Taleban but all that would be in vain if you continue to support the Lebanese Hezbollah", Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified EU source as having said.
Like Mr. Straw, the EU delegation also defended Israel’s "right to peaceful existence in the region" when Mr. Kharrazi pointed that the Jewish State, "by establishment a link between the terrorist operations in the U.S. and the Middle East crisis, is trying to mislead the world public opinion from continuation of its crimes in the occupied territories, sources said.
The delegation also assured Iran of a substantial financial assistance provided Iran would let its borders open to new Afghan refugees as well as to compensate partly for settling of thousands of refugees in Iran over the past few years.
Iran condemned the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, which left nearly 7,000 people dead or missing.
While both Washington and the West are seeking to enlist Tehran's help against bin Laden, the prime suspect in the 11 September operations, Iran is still one of the countries listed by the United States as "a sponsor of terrorism" for its backing of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and the Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups.
"I don't expect there will be a meeting of minds on all issues by a long way", he said. It was important for Iran to be aware that the EU had clear views on human rights "and we have a very clear view that you can't distinguish between good terrorists and bad terrorists", he added.
"We can't in three or four months time find ourselves being criticised for not making funds available to deal with what could be a dreadful humanitarian crisis, a crisis made all the worse by the extent to which the Taleban are using food as a political weapon", Reuters quoted Patten as having said. ENDS EU IRAN US EXPLOSIONS 26901